What is CrossFit? CrossFit is a fitness program that aims to improve several different aspects of your fitness, with the underlying goal of having no weaknesses. The aspects of fitness it aims to improve include cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy. Instead of just sitting on a bike in a Spin class, CrossFit uses body weight movements, strengthening exercises using both your body weight and external weight – such as barbell or kettlebell, and high intensity interval training.
What does having no weaknesses mean?
The idea has to do with eliminating areas of weakness that have been accumulated over time.
- Have you focused on running a lot, making your body weak?
- Have you focused on only strength training, making your body not suitable for a one mile run?
CrossFit takes several different training methodologies and packages it into one. So, while no actual exercises are being invented, they are being re-programmed in a way that greatly benefits an individuals fitness level.
Why does CrossFit work so well?
CrossFit has spread like wild fire across the United States for a few reasons. CrossFit works, and it works really well. While you should always talk to your doctor before trying a new program, Crossfit could work for you.
CrossFit scales to everyone’s different fitness abilities. This means you’ll have elite athletes working out next to stay at home moms. There is a sense of community at the every gym, and they all encourage you to train harder, and push yourself.
Many CrossFit gyms hold competitions, and these are a great way to push yourself towards a goal. Many people do this with a marathon, a 5K race, or a triathlon. All of these things motivate you to show up more often, keep pushing, and strive to become fitter.
What does a CrossFit workout entail?
Every gym has a different way of structuring their workouts, but this will give you a general sense of what it is like. A CrossFit workout starts with a warm up, which is usually a very dynamic warm up. You usually work on skill movement or have a strength session before the workout. Then you have the workout of the day (WOD), which usually lasts under 15 minutes. Lastly, you have a cool down.
An example Crossfit Workout
1. Dynamic warm up
Body weight movements like lunges, pull ups, push ups, hand walks, jump rope, and squats performed in short rep ranges. Dynamic stretches including front and back and side to side leg swings, and arm circles.
2. Strength session or skill movement
Next you’ll either work on a power lift or Olympic lift. These include the deadlift, squat, clean and jerk, snatch, and all the variations of each lift. You may also take this time to work on a skill movement like hand stand push ups, kipping pull ups, muscle ups, hand stand walks, etc.
Here are 3 different examples:
- 5×5 Deadlifts at 80% of your max
- 1 Snatch at 85% max on the minute, for 10 minutes.
- Practice stringing kipping pull ups together
Note: This section is sometimes skipped due based on the design of the following workout section.
3. The Workout Of the Day (WOD)
The workout of the day, or WOD for short, is the bread and butter of CrossFit, and what has attracted a lot of people. It is usually follows HIIT principles – high intensity interval training. Meaning, it is fast, intense, and pushes your body to the limit.
An example workout:
- Five Rounds for Time
This means completing 5 rounds of the following three exercises as fast as you can while keeping good form for each movement.
- 5 Deadlifts at 225 pounds for men or 155 pounds for women
- 10 pull ups
- 15 burpees
4. Cool Down
Some gyms require you to “cash out” for the day, which means you’ll be doing a little mini workout. Something they want you to take easy, to bring you down from the intensity of the WOD. This is usually followed by group or individual static stretching.
An example of this:
- Run 400m
- 50 sit ups
The cool down might seem easy, but trust me, after you’ve done all of the above… you’re feeling it!
Can you do CrossFit at home?
However, I’d highly recommend finding a great gym before you switch to building a home gym. The reason I recommend this is, you need to have proper instruction and guidance. Jumping into this without proper instruction can have serious consequences. Even seasoned weight lifters and gym goers need to ease into CrossFit because of the combination of weight lifting and intense cardiovascular exercise.
How to Choose a CrossFit Gym
Ok, so you’re taking my advice and finding a gym. How do you know the gym is qualified, the coaches are experienced and know what they are doing? Here are a few key things to look for when choosing a CrossFit gym.
1. Strength and Olympic Lifting
Seek out a gym that have a separate strength and Olympic lifting program. This is absolutely vital to progressing in CrossFit.
You need to be spending one to two days focusing strictly on strength, and efficient movement in the Olympic lifts.
2. Certifications Matter
Check the trainers qualifications, specifically check their list of certifications.
While certifications these days have really gone downhill, they are still some measure of competence. Look for trainers with multiple certifications, especially:
- Level 1 CrossFit,
- Level 2 CrossFit, and
- Olympic/weight lifting certifications
3. Look for one that suits you’re style!
Making sure you have a good experience and you want to go back is very important. Do they have women/men only classes? Do they have a weight lifting program, since you like weight lifting on the side? Do they look sociable and have outings? Do they host events, run 5k’s together, or plan other fun activities? All of these things are important to check for when choosing a gym.
See what gyms in your area offer CrossFit by either checking the Crossfit Map, where you can find gyms in your area, or searching Google.
Be aware that some regular gyms offer CrossFit, but I recommend finding a strictly CrossFit style gym.
Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid
- A Terrible Coach. If you’re a beginner, and don’t know how to squat, press, do a push up, or even if you’re experienced… make sure to check out these videos before and while you’re being instructed. If your trainer isn’t coaching you to do the exercise the way they are described and seen in the video, RUN! You have a coach that is putting you in harms way. Find another gym pronto. These are always great videos if you plan on working out at home.
- Keeping up with the Beast. You may get caught up in the atmosphere of competitive fitness and want to out-do the guy next to you. That guy may turn out to be a veteran 5 year CrossFit beast mode competitor. Don’t do that, as you might get a case of Rhabdomyolysis, or Rhabdo for short. There are documented cases of this happening to not just average joes, but military, athletes, and season gym goers. Relax, there will be plenty of time to go all out after you get used to your limits and your body adjusts to the new stresses.
- Not giving your body Time Off. Your body needs time to recover, and not just from muscle soreness. Your central nervous system needs time to relax, and your nagging injuries aren’t improved by pushing them. Train hard; train smart.
- Putting Regular gas into a Porsche. In other words, don’t expect optimal performance while eating poorly. If you want your body to run smoothly while you slam on the accelerator, eat good food. What is good food? Don’t listen to me, listen to an expert – find the Robb Wolf nutrition videos here. Also, this will help transform your body into something to show off at the beach.
- Having a Poor Attitude. This is more general, but having a good attitude about improving your fitness is key. Rome wasn’t built over night, and neither will your body and lifestyle habits. Stay consistent, always be looking to improve in areas, and you’ll eventually get there.
Crossfit Wrap Up
Whether you want to compete some day, or you’d like to get in better shape as fast as possible, try out CrossFit for yourself. Most gyms are very friendly to new people trying it, no matter your fitness level. Most gyms also have ramp-up classes, so they can give you more personalized instruction as a beginner in CrossFit for a few weeks before you are brought into the regular classes.
Already have enough of a training background and want to give it a go yourself? Check out the link in the author box, and get started with the basics – a barbell, bumper plates, and some wooden gymnastic rings.
About The Author: Shane McGrotty is the owner of Rep Fitness where you can find CrossFit and Olympic lifting equipment for sale at extremely competitive prices. He has been doing CrossFit for several years, and still loves it. Follow Rep Fitness on Facebook they will be releasing several new products in the coming weeks.